In the lead up to last week’s South Carolina Democratic primary, Bill Clinton, while campaigning for his wife, said that he expected blacks to vote for Barack Obama and women to vote for Hillary Rodham Clinton, and that this dynamic of voting for president along racial and gender lines would cause his wife to lose South Carolina.
Bill Clinton’s predictions were absolutely correct in one regard — Hillary did lose South Carolina; but he was dead wrong in another — she did not lose because of race or gender. Hillary lost in a majority white, Christian state because her ideas, plans, and rhetoric are out of touch, unrealistic, and lifeless. She lost because she is up against a better opponent in Barack Obama. Obama is focused on change, unification, and hope. He is galvanizing Americans of every color and creed because he knows that real people want trustworthy, optimistic, kind-hearted, and dignified people in positions of power. Obama is focused on the issues, focused on improving the country, and focused on his campaign.
Obviously Obama could not have won South Carolina without the black vote (exit polling showed that about eight out of ten of his votes came from blacks), but he also earned enough votes from other minorities and whites to put him over the top — way over the top. Obama won South Carolina decidedly, taking 55% of the vote state-wide. There is no way that he could have done so well in the voting booth if, as Bill Clinton claimed, people only voted for “their own kind.”
Bill Clinton’s comments about the role of race in gender in this election were hurtful, disgraceful, disgusting, and downright racist. By claiming that his wife would lose South Carolina because people only vote for people who look like them, he diminished all of us. He put South Carolina voters in a little box and questioned their intelligence, integrity, and beliefs. And worst, he made this extraordinary man’s campaign about something it should not be about — the color of his skin.
It was 45 years ago when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had a dream, “that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” I believe Dr. King is looking down at us today and smiling, knowing that his dream has nearly been fulfilled because people of all races, religions, genders, and ages are voting for the person they think can do the job best and it just so happens that that man is black.
Obama got where he is today by hard work, intelligence, and commitment to the cause. He should be judged by his ideas, his experience, and his record. Nobody — not Whites, Blacks, Hispanics, Asians, men, or women — should be using race as a reason to vote for or against him. The fact that Bill Clinton would even bring this issue up is dishonoring the lives of so many people, including Dr. King and Barack Obama, who have worked so hard to remove race from the discussion.
After handily winning South Carolina, Obama handled himself like a true gentleman. He kept on the high road, and focused on his platform of change, hope, and optimism. He said in his victory speech, “I did not travel around this state over the last year and see a white South Carolina or a black South Carolina. I saw South Carolina. The choice in this election is not between regions or religions or genders, it’s not about rich versus poor; young versus old; and it is not about black versus white. It’s about the past versus the future."
The past is the Clintons. Their tired brand of racism will not work in 2008 and as long as Obama stays focused on the issues and avoids mucking his message with this type of crap, he can win the nomination. The Clintons are too seasoned, too rich, and too vicious for Obama to beat in a street fight. He must avoid their bait, and maintain the dignity, integrity, hope and optimism that brought him this far. For if he allows us to judge him by the content of his character he can win this election and stamp out the last remaining brands of racism that still exist today.